Hotel Paradox: Redwood Chic in Santa Cruz


A luxury hotel in Santa Cruz inspired by the redwood forest

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You’re soaking up the Santa Cruz sun by the hotel pool, but when your gaze drifts up you see towering redwood trees. Your room is appointed in luxurious white linens and modernist furniture, but the walls are paneled in weathered snow fencing from a Colorado ranch. The lobby bookcase is lined with 3,000 volumes identically wrapped in white, but in a twist on the old interior décor ruse, each one is an actual book, from Harry Potter to Moby Dick.

Welcome to Hotel Paradox, a redwood forest-inspired luxury hotel in the middle of one of the world’s most famous beach towns. Hotel Paradox brings elements from the mountains into a fully redesigned property just a hop, skip and a jump from everything that makes Santa Cruz a favorite vacation destination for playful grownups: fun dining and shopping in a vibrant downtown; the beaches, Boardwalk rides and world-famous surf spots of the coastline; and mountains that boast huge 1,800-year-old redwood trees, world-class mountain biking and award-winning vineyards. Think of it as a luxurious home base for a series of adventures.

Watch a video of Santa Cruz's famous West Cliff Drive
Read about Henry Cowell Redwoods State Park, home of ancient redwoods
Read about close encounters with sea otters on a water tour of Elkhorn Slough

A Nature-Lover's Hotel

The subtle pull of the outdoors starts the moment you walk inside. Guests register at a desk crafted from a massive 18-foot, 15,000-pound eucalyptus log salvaged from the lumber yard of Evan Shively, the Postrio chef-turned-artisan wood supplier. In a sleek lobby faintly smelling of pine forest, Simone the alabaster squirrel makes her first appearance among the bookcases. She shows up in hallways, the bathroom and the dining room, a design element with a life of her own.

“The eucalyptus log and the squirrels are the things that get the most attention when guests first walk into the hotel,” says General Manager Andrea Murray, adding, “The squirrels are all over Instagram, all over Facebook. And it’s not just a design element. It’s how we interact. Our slogan for service is ‘We’re nuts about our guests.’”

Passing floor-to-ceiling photographs of old-growth redwoods gorgeously etched into the glass walls of the coveted Grove conference room—a space so airy and downright un-conferencelike that weddings have been held here—you’ll reach the heart of Hotel Paradox: Solaire Restaurant and Bar.

Stylish, comfy and flooded with natural light, the two sides of Solaire share a sky-blue ceiling-spanning photograph of an oak forest shot from below, lending a touch of al fresco fantasy to dinner and drinks. In the lounge, where gourmet seasonal cocktails rule supreme—think mulled wine in winter, ginger beer in summer and concoctions like Strawberry Basil Lemonade in spring—an indoor-outdoor bar and French doors opening to the pool area tempt you outside on sunny days and warm nights.

The Paradox pool area, a zone of aquamarine waters, fire pits and cozy cabanas with full poolside service, draws guests in every season. It’s protected from the wind, so an afternoon in a lounge chair is pleasant and warming, even in winter. The jacuzzi and heated pool are open year-round; grab one of the complimentary oversized towels and settle in for complete relaxation. The 100-foot-tall redwood tree at the head of the pool is the inspiration for the hotel and the perfect symbol of the Santa Cruz Mountains.

Murray explains that the designer and the property owner were walking the space, thinking about how to redesign the property, when the idea of a forest-themed hotel in a beach town struck. “They walked out onto the pool deck and here is this giant redwood tree, and the designer pointed to the tree and said, ‘That’s the theme. We can come up with a whole theme centered around the redwood forest in Santa Cruz.’ And they both got super excited and thought it was a fantastic idea.”

In the dining room, where a large fireplace offers cozy warmth on chilly nights, Chef Ross McKee serves locally sourced cuisine from a seasonally updated menu. A few staples, like roasted free-range chicken with root vegetables and a vegan risotto with porcini daube, anchor the menu year-round, but the idea is to offer guests a real taste of this area—the gourmet equivalent of the hotel’s décor, which brings the outdoors in.

“We buy produce almost exclusively from local farms, with the exception of citrus, which doesn’t grow around here,” says McKee, adding that all the calamari and rock crab on the menu, as well as many other fish, are caught in Monterey Bay. The restaurant serves only Seafood Watch-approved fish and shellfish.

“The whole concept of the restaurant was we wanted to do very sustainable, very organic whenever we possibly can, at every possible point,” says Murray.

Outdoor Adventures, Indoor Pampering

Hotel Paradox encourages the active life, with bike racks, the swimming area, a fitness room and outdoor-oriented getaway specials like the Hiking Package. The hotel is located just a few minutes from mountain biking on the Emma McCrary Trail in Pogonip (a model of sustainable trailbuilding) and the regionally famous mountain biking trails of Wilder Ranch State Park; the challenging trails of Soquel Demonstration Forest are an hour away. Hiking among magnificent redwoods is only as far away as Forest of Nisene Marks State Park and Henry Cowell Redwoods State Park—or make the drive through charming San Lorenzo Valley to Big Basin to see the ancient old-growth trees that inspired the creation of California’s first park. And of course there’s lounging at one of a dozen beaches, surfing and surf lessons, and kayaking or SUP at the Santa Cruz Harbor or Elkhorn Slough, where you’ll see otters, sea lions and birds galore.

But luxuries count, too. Every Hotel Paradox room comes with a Keurig coffee maker, an iPod dock, wireless internet and big, thirsty waffle-weave robes. Sparkling white linens, contemporary furnishings and vivid photographs from redwood forests complete the Hotel Paradox effect: You are at once inhabiting both the sleek manmade world of contemporary architecture and the awe-inspiring natural world of the forest. It's a good place to be.

Hotel Paradox is at 611 Ocean St, Santa Cruz, California, 95060. To make reservations, call 831.425.7100 or 855.425.7200 or go online at


Field Notes

Plant your flag! Upload a photo, video, field note, nature poem or question for our army of (mostly) amateur naturalists.


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